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MAN — The Class A defending state champion Man High School basketball team will have a difficult schedule to navigate through this season.

The Hillbillies, 16-2 last year, won their first ever state basketball championship last season with a 43-36 win over Pendleton County in the Single-A finals at the Charleston Coliseum.

Man is set to open the 2021-22 season on Dec. 8 at home against Class A sectional foe Tolsia.

The Billies then play in a pair of tournaments in Logan County — first in Chapmanville’s four-team Bob Runyon Memorial Holiday Tournament, Dec. 10-11.

Man then takes on Buffalo on Dec. 18 in Logan’s King Coal Classic.

Several other challenging games are ahead.

Man takes on Richwood on Jan. 5 in the Beckley tourney, has home-and-away series with Liberty-Raleigh, Mingo Central and Wyoming East, a single game at Parkersburg Catholic and a single match-up at Class AAAA Hurricane in the finale.

“I try to mix it up,” Man coach TJ Blevins said. “We played Liberty-Raleigh years ago when I first got into this. We play Hurricane and we actually had a game scheduled with them last year but COVID knocked it out. We picked up Parkersburg Catholic and we are going to go there for one game and they will return next year. We also have Richwood in the tournament over in Beckley.”

Blevins said he’s still looking to add two games to the schedule.

“There’s still two games left that we need to put on the schedule,” he said. “We were trying to get ahold of Phelps, Kentucky, but they have a lack of players and the coach just resigned. I would prefer to get one more home game if not we’ll go on the road or get in another small tournament.”

The Billies are looking forward to the season.

“I think that it’s going to be different and it’s going to be fun,” Blevins said.

Man is set to scrimmage against Class AAA Lincoln County but that date has not yet been set.

The Billies lost some top players, however, from last year’s state championship team and will have to reload.

Four starters are lost from last season’s team, including 6-foot-7 junior center Austin Ball (19.5 ppg.), the Class A Player of the Year, who transferred to the Miller School in Virginia.

Senior starters Peyton Adams (10.7 ppg) and Ryan Cozart (7.5) were also lost to graduation, along with key reserves Christian Toler (6.2) and Hunter Anderson (3.2).

A fourth starter, Jackson Tackett (9.5), a 6-2 senior forward, is also gone as he transferred to Logan High School.

Adams, Cozart and Tackett were Class A Honorable Mention All-State picks last year, while Ball was the captain of the First Team.

Some reshuffling will need to be done and some new faces will have to emerge but the goal is the same for the Hillbillies.

Make it to Charleston and repeat as state champs.

Man returns starter and All-Stater Caleb Blevins as well as Jeremiah Harless and host of other players who saw at least some court time last season.

The Billies also welcome in a pair of transfers from Logan in Aiden Martin and Trey Brown.

“We have Aiden Martin coming in from Logan and we also have Trey Brown, one of Logan’s sharp-shooters, who has enrolled at Man,” Blevins said. “So those are some new editions.”

The Billies will be challenged again with a difficult Class A sectional with the likes of Tug Valley and Tolsia.

Tug Valley upset Man in last year’s sectional final at Logan in a 53-50 thriller. The Billies and Panthers alternated as the top-ranked Class A team during the regular season.

Man routed Tug Valley, 85-56, during a regular season game last season at home. The second game at Naugatuck was not played.

Man and Tug play each other in a home-and-away series this season.

Sherman and Van round out the sectional.

“I think we’ll have some good battles this season between us and Tug,” Coach Blevins said of the sectional. “Those are always good games it seems. We have a long ways to go until we get to that point.”

This is the last year of the current four-class format for high school basketball in West Virginia. The SSAC will have to decide to continue the system for next season or to go back to the old three-class format.

The Billies do not play either county rival Chapmanville or Logan.

Man played Logan last season a single time as the Wildcats handed the Billies one of their two losses in a 68-63 defeat at Logan’s Willie Akers Arena.

It’s possible, however, Man and CRHS could meet in the championship game of Chapmanville’s Bob Runyon Memorial Holiday Tournament on Dec. 11.

With the delay and condensing of the 2021 season, the annual holiday tourney was canceled last year.

2021-22 Man High School

Boys’ Basketball Schedule:

Dec. 8: Tolsia, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 10: vs. TBA (at Bob Runyon Memorial Tournament at Chapmanville), TBA

Dec. 11: vs. TBA (at Bob Runyon Memorial Tournament at Chapmanville), TBA

Dec. 18: vs. Buffalo (at King Coal Classic, Logan), TBA

Dec. 21: at Mingo Central, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 28: at Sherman, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 3: at Tolsia, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 5: vs. Richwood (at Beckley), TBA

Jan. 7: Van, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 8: at Parkersburg Catholic, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 13: Liberty-Raleigh, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 18: Sherman, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 21: Wyoming East, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 25: Mingo Central, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 29: at Tug Valley, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 8: at Wyoming East, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 9: at Liberty-Raleigh, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 10: at Van, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 15: Tug Valley, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 22: Hurricane, 7:30 p.m.

Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter at @PAdkinsBanner or email him at padkins@hdmediallc.com

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